August 01, 2013
Riya V. Anandwala

SLU Researchers to Test Treatment for Children with Hepatitis B

The treatment will use combination of two drugs for children in the immune tolerant phase of hepatitis B

ST. LOUIS - Saint Louis University researchers are studying a combination of two medications to treat children who have early stage hepatitis B, a liver disease caused by one of the most common infections worldwide.

Jeffrey Teckman, M.D. professor of pediatrics at Saint
Louis University,is the principal investigator of the
pediatric study.

The Hepatitis B Research Network (HBRN), which includes seven pediatric medical centers across the country, will initially test this treatment in a small group of children.

For this study, researchers will use one drug that works on the immune system, activating it to recognize and fight the virus, followed by another drug to kill the virus. Investigators are evaluating whether the combination of two drugs is effective since this phase of infection previously had no treatment, said Jeff Teckman, M.D., professor of pediatrics at Saint Louis University and principal investigator of the pediatric study.

"Hepatitis B is one of the most common infections worldwide and it can last a lifetime. We are not always sure how to apply the therapies to the disease as people have it at different stages and ages," Teckman said. "In this trial we are trying to understand which patients can benefit from what therapies."

According to the World Health Organization, more than 350 million people are chronically infected with the hepatitis B virus. The infection can cause severe liver damage, and many kinds of health problems including liver cancer and death.

In the immune tolerant phase of hepatitis B, which is commonly found in children and young adults, a large amount of virus is present in the body but the immune system doesn't recognize it. Since the system does not fight the virus, it is difficult to treat the infection.

In this trial, the course of the treatment will include testing the effectiveness of the first drug for the first eight weeks, followed by the combination of drugs for further 40 weeks.

"Hepatitis B is still a problem in the U.S., especially among the immigrant population or foreign-adopted children," said Teckman, who is the director of the division of gastroenterology and hepatology at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center. "With this trial we are trying to test if it's possible to offer an early treatment and avoid damage later in life."

Saint Louis University is the only medical center in the region that is part of this trial, and is also running a similar trial for adults.

To participate in the pediatric trial, children should be between ages 3-18 and must be diagnosed with immune tolerant chronic hepatitis B.

For more information or to participate in the trial, contact Jacki Cerkosko, clinical research coordinator at 314 977 5239.

Established in 1836, Saint Louis University School of Medicine has the distinction of awarding the first medical degree west of the Mississippi River. The school educates physicians and biomedical scientists, conducts medical research, and provides health care on a local, national and international level. Research at the school seeks new cures and treatments in five key areas: cancer, liver disease, heart/lung disease, aging and brain disease, and infectious disease.

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